What Happens After an Indictment?

In most legal cases, after an indictment has been handed down by a grand jury, the defendant is arraigned on the charges and pleads guilty or not guilty in court. Legal motions and court hearings follow arraignment, and a defendant is put on trial in front of a jury.

A grand jury can indict openly, which happens after a defendant is arrested on a felony charge, or the jury issues a sealed indictment, which becomes unsealed once an arrest warrant is issued. The defendant is ordered to appear in District Court, Circuit Court or Supreme Court for an arraignment. The arraignment process does not determine guilt or innocence. The arraignment court receives the defendant’s plea of guilty or not guilty and determines if the defendant has legal representation. The court appoints an attorney for the defendant, if necessary. At this time, bond may or may not be issued.

In some cases, the state may present the defendant with a plea bargain offer, which can take place during a pre-trial conference. Plea bargains often include offers for a reduction of charges or jail time. Sometimes, the state offers to drop the charges in exchange for a guilty plea. Rejection of a plea bargain allows the case to proceed to trial.